Posted by Tanya Duncan Jul 15, 2011
If I’ve learned one thing in the past year, it’s that strong mentors are a huge component of being successful as a new SAP professional. Throughout college, I sought out professors and counselors to support my academic growth and help me down my chosen career path. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor, project coach, and development program leader behind me during my first post-graduate position as a SAP professional.
My assigned mentor was a leader in the organization with great insight and advice on developing my SAP skills through project work. As a SAP track lead, he encouraged me to approach situations in different ways and develop my leadership skills. I sought his advice in planning blueprinting sessions and he included me in plant visits to gain more business exposure. He often gave me insight in new opportunities and was a great advocate for me.
My project coach on the other hand was a FICO Guru (known to many as the Sensei!). She has a very deep knowledge of the business, is an expert in FICO, and understands the integration between finance and other modules like SD, MM/PP, & PM to name a few. My coach saw the value in sharing her experiences and expertise. She used the opportunity to teach me as a way to develop her coaching skills. I’d like to think we both benefited from the relationship. I provided her with a new perspective and challenged her to seek answers for my questions and curiosities. One of the qualities of a great coach is learning to let step back the trainee take the reins. My coach sat out on several opportunities and let me lead in workshops, conference calls, and speak during presentations.
Rounding out my support team was my development program leader. Her role was very important as she oversaw my success in the development program and worked with my manager to deliver performance reviews. She provided advice on reaching my career goals, balancing work and personal life, and was a great sounding board.
Advice on mentor relationships for new SAP graduates:
Types of mentors. You will likely be assigned a mentor or on-boarding coach when you start in a new organization. Get to know this person and spend a few months building a relationship with them. If they’re not the right fit or you’re not getting what you need, seek out additional mentors. You want someone that is focused on developing you in the HR sense with career coaching and developing your interpersonal skills. This person should be a well-respected leader that is approachable and available. It’s just as important to find a mentor with deep technical expertise in your module. Gain this person’s trust by showing them you can learn quickly. Once you’ve established a good rapport, seek opportunities to partner with them on leading workshops, building training materials, etc. I also suggest meeting with other leaders and continuing to find new mentors as your goals change. You should meet less frequently with other leaders in your organization and continue to expand your network. As a new employee, build your internal network and gain respect from leaders. They can advocate for you and help you reach your career goals.
Mentorships should not be a one way street. Give back to your mentors by learning about their role and understanding how you can help them. For example, if your mentor is a leader in another module of SAP, take your relationship as an opportunity to integrate with their team or sit in on their workshops. Building cross-functional relationships will strengthen the project team as a whole and make collaboration during blueprinting and support much more successful.
Find the right cadence for meeting with your mentor. After my first few weeks, meeting once a month with my development program leader and mentor was sufficient time to discuss my progress and goals. In the meantime, I suggest sending questions, concerns, and status updates every other week. This keeps you on their radar and demonstrates that you value the relationship.
Maintain these relationships even during turnover. I kept in touch with one of mentors when she left the company and continued to seek her professional advice. When I left the company, I gave my coworkers my contact information and asked for recommendations on LinkedIn.
Footnote: Upon graduating from the development program, I left the industry and joined Deloitte as a SAP consultant. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be mentored and coached by these individuals. I have great respect for them and truly appreciated their advice. I hope those reading are able to build positive relationships with mentors in their career as well!